I think it's fair to say that the National winner was hard to find, but well done if you backed Auroras Encore last weekend. I was delighted with Rare Bob who came in fifth for those of us that were on each way.
There is still some top-class jumping to look forward to before the season's out, but the focus this weekend is on the flat, which - as is always the case - doesn't really feel like it's got underway properly yet.
The Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton has attracted a decent field. Lily's Angel is a leading contender for Ger Lyons. This filly joined him last summer having been bought as a potential broodmare by her new owners. Prior to that she was based with Richard Fahey for whom she was very useful winning a Listed race and being placed at Group 3 level.
I really like Lily's Angel, but I'm hoping Stirring Ballad can run a big race for the Balding yard.
Quotes of the week
Since joining Lyons she has won four races including two at Dundalk and was sent to Dubai where she won one race on tapeta at Meydan, so an artificial surface suits her well. The mile trip suits her well, too, and she is the highest-rated in this field. She does have to carry a 3lb penalty for her Listed win at Dundalk but should run well having the benefit of fitness on her side.
Burke's Rock is one of her dangers for trainer Jeremy Noseda. The Newmarket handler has made a good start to the season with the few runners he has had so far. This filly is having her first run since November; she was narrowly beaten on the all-weather at Lingfield on her last start. She has been campaigned mostly over this trip, but connections have always felt she would be suited by further. She is fitted with her usual sheepskin cheek-pieces.
Dutch Rose is another to consider for David O'Meara. Her last run came at York in August where she won a seven furlong Fillies' handicap off a mark of 86. This is her first try at a mile. She kept improving last season and deserves her chance to get some black type this term. I'd be a bit concerned about the trip as she seemed best suited by seven last year and there is plenty of speed in her pedigree.
The trainer also runs Switcher, who has had the benefit of a run this season and Silvestre de Sousa rides. Paul Hanagan is a decent booking for Radio Gaga for Ed McMahon.
Andrew Balding is represented by Stirring Ballad who had a great summer winning four in a row from seven furlongs to a mile. She ran here over seven furlongs a couple of weeks ago showing up well, staying on and should benefit for that run. If she can continue to progress this season she should be capable of winning outside handicap company and can make her presence felt here. I really like Lily's Angel, but I'm hoping Stirring Ballad can run a big race for the Balding yard.
Doncaster have a competitive card too and the ground at declaration stage was described as good, although I'd imagine it's on the easier side given recent rain. The feature is the Listed Doncaster Mile and Highland Knight is one of the protagonists for Andrew Balding.
Side Glance ran a cracking race for the stable to be fourth in the Dubai World Cup and they have some lovely horses to run this season (including the Sky Sports News horse On Demand of course). Highland Knight won a Group 2 in Germany last season but will have to run up to his best to beat this decent field.
Ralph Beckett's Moonstone Magic loves some cut in the ground but it may not be soft enough for her. She also gets a 3lb fillies allowance against the colts. She made a great start to her career winning her maiden impressively, then taking a Group 3 on her second outing before being well beaten on her last start in the Guineas, she's been off since. This is a good place to start back for her, but given the cold spring the fillies aren't blooming yet and I'd be keen to watch her on Saturday.
Julie Wood, who has a great deal of success with the Richard Hannon stable, welcomes her Chandlery back to the track having been off since July 2011 with a fractured pelvis. She says he may be rusty, but he has plenty of ability and he won't be short of work. He galloped at Kempton recently and is apparently in good form. However, it is a worry he has been off for so long, so he maybe best watched here.
Gabrial is a lovely horse who faced some difficult tasks last season. He is a 'scopey' horse who should continue to progress for trainer Richard Fahey. One of his best runs was when finishing fourth in the St James's Palace Stakes, only beaten four lengths by Most Improved. He seems versatile regards ground and is one I'd rather be with than against.
Sovereign Debt will suit conditions here and can run well for Michael Bell and Jamie Spencer. His last run came in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day and was beaten just over seven lengths by Excelebration. He will enjoy the ground is it is on the soft side. He holds an entry in the Group 1 Lockinge at Newbury. The two I like are Gabrial and Sovereign Debt with the preference slightly for the former.
There is also a £50,000 sprint and the money has attracted a red-hot field.
Twenty horses have been declared for the six-furlong contest. A smart bunch of sprinters will line up including Sir Michael Stoute's Duke of Firenze who has his first run since October but wouldn't want too much give in the ground.
Jack Dexter represents Jim Goldie and Graham Lee and has the burden of top weight. It may not be enough to stop him though as he was the impressive winner of the Cammidge Trophy at the last meeting but would prefer easier ground and wouldn't want it to dry out. Any sign of soft in the going description and I'd be very keen on his chances though.
Prodigality has done well for trainer Ron Harris, who bought this horse for just 11,000 guineas in August 2011, and he has won four races with him. One of those wins came on the first day of this month at Warwick and he looks set for another decent season. He continues to improve and is versatile with regards the going.
David O'Meara is a trainer to keep on the right side of and he runs Move in Time who has also won this season in a five-furlong handicap at Musselburgh. That was his first run for his new trainer who has also gelded him so it's feasible there could be more to come from him this term.
Elaine Burke runs Yeeoow, whose best form has come so far on the all-weather. King of Jazz has no weight to carry for Michael Bell and could be well handicapped. Our Jonathan may be revitalised by a change of scenery and he ran well on his first start for Newmarket trainer Tim Pitt at the end of March.
I must declare an interest in one of the runners. I own a couple of hairs of Farlow and hope he can run well for Richard Fahey. He got stuck in the mud at Doncaster last time out and I hope it's better underfoot for his chances. It's a red hot handicap though as you would expect for the money but I'll be cheering him on and although I won't burden him with my selection I hope he can run into a place.
Prodigality just edges it for me as he has started the season well and there could be more to come from him this term.
Away from the racing I woke up the other morning convinced Rory McIlroy had bounced back to form and won the Masters! It would be a dream result for him, and it turns out it was for me...but at 10/1 with Sky Bet...hmmm...I'd be cross to have missed out and I'll be keeping a close eye on his progress.
Stirring Ballad in the Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton
Gabrial in the in the Doncaster Mile
Prodigality in the six-furlong Handicap at Doncaster